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In keeping with the national spirit of renewal, the Internal Revenue Service recently started providing personalized critiques of selected federal tax returns. As Peter Quibble, IRS commissioner, explains: “We believe everyone has the talent and ability to become a better taxpayer. Yes, some people are more naturally talented in this arena. But with a little support and feedback, we believe every American can acquire the skills necessary to craft the kind of return that would make their grandchildren proud.”
Thank you so much for your recent submission to the 2011 tax fund. After careful consideration, we regret to inform you that your return does not meet our needs at this time. While your submission was admirable in its reach – we especially enjoyed the clever juxtaposition of the words “writer” and “income” — we ultimately felt the United States Treasury would benefit most from returns in which actual taxes were involved.
However, because you are clearly a taxpayer with promise, we thought it might be useful to provide specific feedback on your submission.
For the most part, we found the characterization of your taxpayer to be quite convincing. Given the taxpayer’s job classification as a writer – known in federal parlance as an “LMNOP” – we felt it fitting that your taxpayer would not claim any interest income, investment property or offshore oil leases, but that he would list several changes of address, including one poetically referred to as “the streets of Laredo.”
Although a relatively new auditor might dismiss this taxpayer as a stereotypical LMNOP, your pinpoint details – especially in the itemized deductions — kept the character grounded in reality. Among the deductions that rang true:
–Four Koosh balls
–Six bottle openers
–A case of Kleenex (although in the future you should probably use the non-brand specific “facial tissues”)
–The entry fee for writing contests sponsored by Mrs. Hardy’s Microwavable Chicken; and,
–127 books about writing, including one titled, “Why God, Why?”
Added to the long list of strengths, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the believability of your taxpayer’s voice. Although we’re not accustomed to receiving handwritten addendums, this taxpayer’s pleading tone rang true, particularly when trying to convince us of the deductibility of three whistles and a gondolier’s shirt, which the taxpayer claimed were necessary to “get in the mood.”
While all this shows great promise for future submissions, here are some things you may wish to consider for next year:
Secondary Characters: While the hero of your return was memorable, we questioned the believability of your secondary characters – what we call “dependents.” The IRS does not consider dogs, snakes or mynah birds to be legitimate deductions, nor would we allow you to write off your “muse,” even if, as you explained, your muse answers to the name Babycakes and once convinced you to buy a boat.
Setting: As an ardent supporter of virtual work, the IRS is happy to allow legitimate deductions for home office expenses. That said, it is assumed that the “office” indeed be in the “home” and not, as you claim, in the employee breakroom at Turntables R Us.
Tense: Generally speaking, tax returns record a narrative of events that have already occurred. Thus, the simple past tense usually works best, as in, “I drove 678 miles for work.” We found it a bit disorienting and overwrought when you jumped into the past perfect with such statements as, “I would have driven 678 miles for work if I had a car like you people.”
We sincerely hope our feedback has been useful, and that you will consider resubmitting to the IRS again next year.
The United States Department of Internal Revenue